The End for Adobe's Multi-Screen Strategy? - This is a question that Tim Siglin asks in his recent article on the sudden death of the HP TouchPad and WebOS.
My initial reaction to reading that header was one of suspected link-baiting; but since I know Tim well enough I knew that his style of writing goes substantially deeper than that of an attention-grabbing headline (but hey, this didn't stop me from re-using it. You see my standards are far far lower and since you are now reading my post it clearly has paid off ;-).
So does Tim have a point? Does the demise of WebOS and the sluggish uptake of other (non-iOS) mobile operating systems outside of Android really spell bad news for Adobe and its multi-screen dream?
On some levels the answer is clearly yes as it cannot be argued that deploying to a lot of OSs from one codebase is better than to just a few. And Tim rightly points out that one cannot talk of a multi-screen strategy when there's only two major OSs left to play on (iOS and Android).
Tim goes on to point out:
"A full 80 percent of the tablet devices that Adobe showcased at last October's MAX event either never made it to market, made it to market and floundered, or made it to market and were killed off quickly."
Clearly he makes some good points, and those numbers sound grim. But as a developer who has dipped his toe into mobile development for PlayBook, Android and iOS I do wonder how important those 'other' OSs really are. The PlayBook did not take off in the way that RIM had hoped, in fact one can't even call it a take off at all. Sure, we may see a next revision or a PlayBook2 but whoever thinks that this device will give the iPad a run for its money must be smoking something that I'd like to try some of.
But is it really a loss for Adobe that the TouchPad is dead, that the PlayBook is not all it promised to be and that the iPad still outsells all other tablets put together? I'm not so sure, after all multi-screen is about so much more than mobile. Adobe is making its revenues from selling authoring tools, and with Flash Pro and Flash Builder (including some other HTML-centric tools) have got a decent offering when it comes to targeting not only Android but iOS as well. Flash Player may not be present on iOS, but the Flash ecosystem (which includes the development tools that many of us use daily) is present nonetheless. Developers are actively building and deploying Flash based games to all major mobile platforms - Terry Paton being one example - and even Flex-based applications have been climbing the iTunes chart lately (see Politifact for example which even made it to number 1 in the news app section).
In summary I think Tim is partly right, it would be better for Adobe to have a wider range of platforms it can support in the mobile space. On the flipside the entire mobile ecosystem is still in its infancy and it is unlikely that more than 2 or 3 major OSs will become and stay mainstream - not too dissimilar to what happened on the desktop.
I think that if Adobe can offer publishing tools and workflows that can target the main players in the mobile space (as well as on the desktop, and maybe on the TV as well) then they've got little to worry about. In 2010 Adobe could bank its first $1 billion quarter, with revenue up 33%. Q1 in 2011 was equally successful for Adobe and represented their sixth consecutive quarter of sequential revenue growth.
My oh my, I am starting to sound like an analyst now, but clearly they are doing something right. Could they do better? Of course, but considering all the bad press and Flash-hate that is making the rounds in these times of oh-so-fashionable Adobe bashing it sometimes helps to get some facts down and a reality-check from all the 'tech-news' that we're subjected to recently. I'm starting to get really bored of it - and I'm not including Tim's articles in that.